Fri, 31 March 2017
Obama 'genuinely concerned' about Donald Trump developments

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23:15   Obama 'genuinely concerned' about Donald Trump developments
A former spokesman for Barack Obama has said the ex-president is  genuinely concerned about developments engulfing the Trump administration.

Josh Earnest, who served as White House press secretary from 2014 to 2017, was asked about his former bosses' thoughts about what was transpiring under his successor.

Hes genuinely concerned, Earnest told MSNBC. 

Obama has been virtually silent about the various controversies that have beset Trump. 

His only public statement, delivered through a spokesman, was to strongly deny Trumps claim - which the New York tycoon delivered without evidence and has been debunked by congressional investigators - that he wiretapped Trump Tower.

Earlier this week, Easrnest said Obama would be happy to continue to offer advice to Trump as he did during the transition between their administrations.
23:10   UPDATE: Indian student beaten in Poland, Sushma Swaraj seeks report
An Indian national was reportedly beaten in Poland's Poznan city on Friday even as Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj asked for a report on the matter. In a tweet, Swaraj said, "I have just spoken to the Indian Ambassador in Poland and asked for a report."

"There was an incident of beating. Fortunately, he has survived. We are inquiring into all aspects of the incident," she wrote. 

This development comes nearly a month after an Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot dead in a racially motivated incident in US' Kansas City. 

More details on the incident is awaited.
22:40   After SC order, 50 Delhi liquor outlets to go dry, 65 to be sealed
Around 50 pubs, restaurants and hotels, located within 500 metres of highways in Delhi, will not be able to serve liquor tomorrow onwards.

Also, 65 vends will be sealed following the Supreme Court order that no liquor shops, pubs, hotels and bars serving alcohol will be permitted within 500 metres of highways in the country from April 1, government sources said.

A senior excise department official said several teams have been formed to ensure that outlets - pubs, restaurants and hotels - most of them on NH-8, stop serving liquor.

Some of the major restaurants and hotels located in Aerocity near the IGI Airport will be affected by the ruling.

Officials said strict action will be taken against violators.
JUST IN:  Petrol price cut by Rs 3.77 per litre and diesel by Rs 2.91 per litre from midnight tonight.
22:06   Tribute to Mumbai's dabbawalas unveiled
An art installation, in the form of a statue paying tributes to the ubiquitous Dabbawalas (tiffin carriers) of Mumbai, was unveiled today.

The work is part of a private art foundation in partnership with Mumbai municipal corporation and is located at Haji Ali.

A creation of Mumbai-based sculptor Valay Shende, the installation is a tribute to Dabbawalas, the network of lunch-delivery men who ferry lunch boxes from homes to offices and back with precision and efficiency that has earned them accolades.

Shende's Dabbawala is a 13-feet sculpture made of stainless steel discs.
JUST IN: Indian student allegedly beaten to death in Poland; ExternalAffairs Minister Sushma Swaraj seeks report.
21:16   First picture of UK terror attack survivor after her husband was killed
The first pictures of Melissa Cochran, the wife of one of the Westminster terror attack victims, have emerged as she is treated in hospital.

Despite having lost her husband and seeming to have extensive injuries, Cochran manages to smile in the pictures.

The couple had been on the trip of a lifetime as they travelled around Europe.

They were on the final day of a visit to London to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary when they were caught up in the carnage on Wednesday last week.

Kurt Cochran, from Utah, was killed while walking on Westminster Bridge as a car mowed down pedestrians.

His wife Melissa could be seen lying on the floor with blood pouring from her head.

Melissa, 46, suffered a broken leg, rib and cuts to her head when Muslim convert Khalid Masood rammed his Hyundai 4x4 into pedestrians on the bridge.
20:39   Stamping of hand baggage to continue for those flying abroad
The hand baggage of passengers flying out of the country will continue to be stamped at all the seven airports where this practice will end tomorrow for domestic travellers, officials said today.

Stamping of passengers' hand baggage at seven major airports, including Delhi and Mumbai, will be done away with from tomorrow. The other airports are: Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Cochin and Ahmedabad.

However, this would not be applicable to the passengers flying out of the country. Official sources said it was being done as the aviation and security regulators of foreign countries needed to be informed about it in advance and convinced.

All the seven airports have international passenger traffic.
20:18   Chorus grows louder for Sachin, Rekha's resignation from RS
Chorus is growing over absentee nominated Members of Parliament. The view that the MPs nominated by the President to the Rajya Sabha should start attending House proceedings more often has become dominant.

On March 30, Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal had raised the issue of nominated members remaining absent from the House proceedings for a long period of time. He said that he has not seen eminent members of the Upper House such as cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and Bollywood actor Rekha attend the proceedings in the session.

Agarwal asked the chair whether the nominated members of the Upper House continue to remain absent from the House. He even said that they should resign if they were not interested.

Several politicians agree with the sentiments expressed by Agarwal. BJP leader Chandan Mitra said if nominated members like Rekha and Sachin brought glamour to Parliament, they could have contested the Lok Sabha elections. Had they not attended the House proceedings, they would have been pulled up by their party.

Rajya Sabha MP Rajiv Chandrashekhar said nomination of eminent personalities was an honour that the President and the people of the country give to someone. The Rajya Sabha MP said he did not demand resignation of the absentee nominated MPs but that they should come to House more often.

However, lyricist and another former nominated Rajya Sabha MP Javed Akhtar said Rekha and Sachin might have been "arm-twisted" to accept the nomination.

For the record, Rekha's attendance in the Rajya Sabha has been around 5 per cent while that of Sachin has been 8 per cent in the last five years. Both of them were nominated in 2012 by the previous Congress-led UPA government. Their attendance is far below the national average of 78 per cent.
JUST IN: UP govt bans strike by employees in universities and colleges
19:32   4 plays themed on nationalism cancelled at Ramjas college
Delhi University's Ramjas College, which saw violent protests last month, is once again in the news as four plays themed on nationalism were not allowed to be performed during its annual street play fest today.

While the members of Ramjas' drama society claim the college administration decided to cancel the plays as their subjects were "sensitive", the principal maintained it was students' decision and not the authorities'.

The drama society's annual street play festival 'Mukhatib' held today also witnessed silent protest by Ramjas' students who wore black hand bands and sealed their mouths with black tapes protesting against the cancellation of the plays.

The cancelled performances are: SGTB Khalsa college's play 'Trump Card', Dyal Singh college's 'Jokistaan'; Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce's 'sawal to uthega (questions will be raised)'; and Gargi College's 'Main, Kashmir aur aap? Main Manipur' (I'm Kashmir, and you? I'm Manipur).

"Seven teams were scheduled to take part in the street play festival and perform on their respective subjects.However, our administration asked us to present the scripts to them, which has never happened before.

"After presenting the scripts, we were asked to cancel performances of four plays as their subject was related to nationalism, freedom of speech and the evergreen issue of Kashmir," a member of the drama society said. 
19:00   PV Sindhu wins against Saina at India Open
The Rio silver medallist came from behind in the second set to win against compatriot Saina Nehwal to win the quarters of the India Open. Sindhu won 21-16, 22-20. 
18:35   Sindhu takes 1-0 lead vs Saina in India Open quarters
PV Sindhu, the Rio Olympic silver medalist took just 19 minutes to win the opening game of the India Open quarter-final against compatriot Saina Nehwal. She won the 1st game 21-16.

In the 1st game of the India Open quarter-final, PV Sindhu won the opening point but Saina caught up with her soon. Sindhu was quicker on her feet and reached for everything. Saina also fought point for point, she defended well and covered the court well. 

The net play by both players was brilliant. 
18:22   The Dalai Lama or us, make a choice: China's warning to India
China today warned India of "serious damage" to bilateral ties if it allows Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh
next week and asked New Delhi to make a "choice".

In its second warning to India in a month, the Chinese foreign ministry said it was seriously concerned about India's decision to allow the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims as part of south Tibet.

"We are seriously concerned about the news. On the eastern section of the China-India border, China's position is clear and consistent," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, responding to a question on the Dalai
Lama's upcoming visit to Arunachal Pradesh.

"The Dalai clique has long been engaging in separatist activities with inglorious record. India should be very clear with the true nature of the Dalai clique," Lu said.

"But despite this India still invited the Dalai Lama to visit the region. This will have serious damage on bilateral relations," Lu said.

The Dalai Lama will visit Arunachal Pradesh from April 4 to 13.
18:04   Madrassas in MP to have lessons on 'importance of patriotism in Islam'
The Madrassa Board in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh is preparing a course on the patriotism's place in Islam.

Lessons on life stories of prominent leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi would also be a part of syllabus.
"The Board is preparing a syllabus on the topic `Vatan Se Mohabbat Ka Islam Dharam Me Kya Mahatva Hai' (what is the importance of love for one's country in Islam) so that students learn what a high status the religion they follow
(Islam) has given to those who love their country and to the loyalty to the country," Madhya Pradesh Madarsa Board Chairman Syed Imad Uddin said.
"We are also including lessons on the lives of Narendra Modi, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Abul Kalam Azad who himself was a product of Madarsa, APJ Abdul Kalam, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya and others to educate Madarsa students about their life struggles and their achievements," he said.
The ongoing Narmada river conservation programme `Namami Devi Narmade' would also be a part of syllabus, he said.
17:30   Kapil Sharma show ratings hit all-time low, new season unlikely
Looks like comedian Kapil Sharma's infamous mid-air scuffle with Sunil Grover has taken a toll on his show, 'The Kapil Sharma Show,' as it may be heading towards a curtain call.

The show is reportedly scheduled for a renewal for another season in April, which will reportedly be a deal of Rs 106 crore, but according to a source, a fresh season seems unlikely.

A report on India Today also says that the impressions of the show have witnessed a sharp fall (March 18-24), according to the latest data released by BARC India. The Kapil Sharma Show has recorded 5.3 million impressions, compared to last week's 6 million impressions.

The insider added that since the crew and other celebrities are unwilling to turn up for the episodes, the channel and the makers might have to take a tough decision of killing the show.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Sunil Grover announced an upcoming show, titled Dr Mashoor Gulati's Comedy Clinic, featuring Kiku Sharda and other actors. The gig is scheduled to be held on April 1 in Delhi.

Meanwhile, rumour had it that comedian Raju Srivastava was replacing Grover, who features as the characters Rinku Bhabhi and Dr Mashoor Gulati on the show. Not just that, there are rumours that Navjot Singh Sidhu might also have to quit the show due to his government job as a minister.

Earlier, the 'Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon' star allegedly verbally abused and assaulted Sunil Grover with a shoe while 'The Kapil Sharma Show' crew was flying out of Australia.

Later, Kapil took to his Facebook page to share an apology to Grover, to which the 'Gabbar is Back' star responded saying "Yes, you hurt me deeply.
17:13   Govt promises probe into attack on DNA reporter
DNA reporter Sudhir Suryavanshi was attacked with hockey sticks by four unknown persons at Kharghar today. Suryavanshi was injured in the attack which took place at Shilp Chowk in a residential area of Kharghar. The reason behind the attack is not known yet, reports ABP Majha.

The report said that the journalist was looking for a repair shop as his car had a tyre puncture, when the miscreants attacked him.

The incident was discussed in the state assembly with home minister Ranjit Patil promising a probe.
16:52   Liquor shops 220 metres from highways allowed: SC
Update on the SC verdict on liquor shop ban along highways.

While the Supreme Court reduces from 500 to 220 metres the distance of liquor shops from highways, it's only applicable areas with a population of up to 20,000. For those with a population of more than 20,000 the 500 metre liquor shop ban from national, state highways stands.

The distance relaxation also extended to hill states of Sikkim, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh.

People who got licence for liquor vends prior to the Dec 15, 2016 verdict can operate till September 30. Others will have to shut down from tomorrow.
16:37   SC reduces ban on liquor shops near highways to 220 metres
Just in: The Supreme Court has banned the sale of liquor on state and national highways reducing from 500 to 220 metres the distance of liquor shops from the highways. This applicable only to areas with a population of up to 20,000.

Several state governments and private hotel owners sought the revisiting of its December 15, 2016, order banning the sale of liquor on national and state highways.

The top court, in its December 15 order, had banned the sale of liquor within 500 metres on either side of national and state highways across the country and also said that the licenses of all those currently selling liquor would not be renewed.

A bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice L Nageswara Rao said that in the "interest of the public health" the liquor shops were ordered to be removed to a distance of 500 meters from either side of the highways.

The bench said that asking the state government to shift the liquor shops was not impinging on the excise policy of different states as it was only a matter of distance of the outlets from the highways.

On December 15, the court had allowed liquor shops in proximity to highways to operate till 31 March, but ruled against renewal of their licences. The courts decision came on a public interest litigation case seeking to curb road accidents on highways due to drunken driving.

Some states have sought to extend the deadline or decrease the distance to 100 meters for state highways while a few states have sought a recall of the order.

15:51   Digvijaya kept roaming around and we formed govt in Goa, taunts Parrikar in farewell to RS
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday took a dig at Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, saying the latter's incompetence led to the BJP's victory in the state.

"Of course I thanked Digvijaya for letting us form the government. It is because of his incompetence that we formed the government here. He kept roaming around and we formed the government in 48 hours. His own MLA did not have faith in him while we built consensus with the regional parties," Parrikar told the Rajya Sabha.

Digvijaya, who was in-charge of the Congress affairs in Goa, had earlier said the constitutional norms were not followed by Governor Mridula Sinha, adding that the Congress despite being the single largest party was not invited to form the government in the state.

"The procedure is that the single largest party is always called. So, the Governor should have adopted this process. The Governor has to act under the Constitution as per the established conventions," Singh told the media.

Earlier on March 16, former defence minister Parrikar established victory in the Goa Assembly as 22 MLAs stood in his support.

16 MLAs opposed Parrikar's candidature as the Chief Minister, while one MLA was absent.

The Supreme Court had ordered a floor test as the Congress challenged his appointment, citing that the Goa Governor did not follow the procedure as dictated by the Constitution.

Despite the BJP ending up second behind the Congress in a split mandate, Parrikar had claimed the support of 22 legislators, two more than the half-way mark in the 40-member Assembly.

The Congress won 17 seats but was not able to prove majority.
IM founder Yasin Bhatkal brought to Ahmedabad in connection with investigations in the 2008 serial bomb blasts.
15:40   CBI files chargesheet against Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh, wife
CBI files charge sheet in Delhi court against Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh, his wife and others in DA case.

Earlier today, the Delhi High Court dismissed Singh and his wife's plea seeking quashing of the disproportionate assets case filed against them by the CBI.

Justice Vipin Sanghi also vacated the Himachal Pradesh High Court's interim order of October 1, 2015 restraining the CBI from arresting, interrogating or filing a charge sheet in the case without the court's permission.

Virbhadra and his wife Pratibha Singh have claimed in their plea that there was no order, direction or judgment by any court that had authorised the CBI to inquire, investigate or register regular cases and exercise jurisdiction in the territory of Himachal Pradesh.

The chief minister has contended in his plea that the raids on his private residence and other premises were conducted with "malafide intentions and political vendetta" by the central investigating agency.

He has alleged that CBI had overstepped its jurisdiction in filing the case as the cause of action did not arise in the territory of Delhi.

Singh has also claimed that the permission of the state government and Home Department were not taken before raiding the residence of a sitting chief minister.

The CBI had contended that the allegations against Singh in the case are "very serious" as a huge amount of money was involved and the state government has shown "over anxiety" in protecting him.
15:35   Probe into girls ordered to strip over menstruation
The Government of Uttar Pradesh has ordered a probe into the shocking incident in which around 70 girls of the Kasturba School Hostel in Muzaffarnagar being stripped by the warden "to check for menstrual blood".

Uttar Pradesh's Power Minister Shrikant Sharma on Friday condemned the shameful incident and said a probe by the concerned authorities has been initiated.

"We were informed through the media; the concerned officers have been given instruction to carry out the investigation," Sharma told ANI.

One girl student said the warden ordered girls to remove their clothes after discovering blood stains in the bathroom.

"It was very humiliating for all of us. We want action against her," the girl said.

The warden of the hostel has been suspended.
15:22   Govt notifies simplified ITR; e-filing to start from tomorrow
The government today notified a simplified Income Tax Return form for individuals which will be available for filing ITR for Assessment Year 2017-18 from tomorrow.

Currently, SAHAJ (ITR 1) is filed by salaried employees and ITR 2 by individuals and HUFs whose income does not include income from business. The government has done away with two forms ITR 2A (used by individuals & HUFs not having income from business or profession and capital gains and who do not hold foreign assets). Only 6 crore out of 29 crore persons holding permanent account number (PAN) file income tax returns at present.
15:07   A Pranab Mukherjee Foundation in the works
President Pranab Mukherjee's friends are keen to launch a foundation in his name from August 2017, which is after when he demits office.

This foundation is likely to propogate and educate future generations about the ideals for which the president has stood for and will also have fellowships and encourage research papers on foreign policy, defence and energy policy -- areas on which Pranab Mukherjee has devoted his life.

There will be a faculty and many industrialists and business houses have already begun to contribute from their Corporate Social Responsibility Funds. The president's secretary Omita Paul will be Chief Executive Officer to drive this foundation.  
14:47   Thespian Soumitra Chatterjee's grandson injured in mishap
Bengali actor and grandson of thespian Soumitra Chatterjee, Ranodeep Bose was seriously injured in a road mishap in Kolkata early today.  

Ranodeep, who was returning home from a show, was pillion riding on a friend's two-wheeler.   

He suffered serious head injuries when the bike rammed into a concrete wall in New Alipore area at around 2 am, the police said.   

His friend Joydeep, who was driving, was also injured and suffered serious fractures, the police said.   

Ranodeep is undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Park Circus area, a film director, who worked with him, said.   

The 35-year-old actor had been critically acclaimed for his roles in Anjan Dutta's Dutta Vs Dutta (2012) Moinak Bhowmik's Family Album (2015) and Kamaleswar Mukhopadhyay's Khawto (2016).
14:29   Rajini in the morning, India in the afternoon: Malaysian PM in Chennai
Meeting with Rajinikanth?
Wooing investors?

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's done for the day.

In Chennai for two days, ending today, the PM first met Rajinikanth (scroll down for the report and the pictures) and then investors from India, asking them to take advantage of the business opportunities offered by his country.

Najib, who began his six-day visit to India yesterday, met the captains of industry at a roundtable business meet here. In his address, Najib "urged investors to take advantage of the business opportunities offered by Malaysia as we aim to intensify and elevate our strategic partnership to greater heights," the Malaysian PMO said in its official Facebook page about the interaction.
14:08   Adityanath visits cow shelter run by Mulayam's daughter-in-law
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath today paid a visit to 'Kanha Upvan' - a  shelter home for cows and stray animals -  run by Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav's daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav's NGO 'Jeev Ashray'.

UP Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma accompanied Adityanath.

This is Adityanath's second meeting with with Aparna and her husband Prateek. The couple had met the CM at the VVIP Guest House where he was staying last week.

The meeting triggered intense speculation in political circles as it came a few days after BJP trounced Akhilesh Yadav-led SP in the 2017 UP assembly elections.

The meeting, which lasted for 20 minutes was termed a 'courtesy call'.

During their meeting, Prateek and Aparna had reportedly discussed the issue of 'Gau-Sanrakshan' (cow protection) with the UP CM.

Image: The UP CM at the cow shelter run by Mulayam Singh Yadav's daughter-in-law, Aparna (in green, on his right). 
@superstarrajini's morning meeting with a huge fan. "I am extremely happy to have met an excellent, friendly and warm person today ... The Honourable Prime Minister of Malaysia @NajibRazak ji."
13:46   It's PM's duty to hear our farmers' problems: Rahul
Congress VP Rahul Gandhi meets Tamil Nadu farmers protesting over drought relief funds at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Rahul said that the PM had given debt relief to the richest people in the country, but not for people who have built this country -- the farmers. Inki (TN farmers) awaaz na Hindustan ki sarkar aur na hi PM ko sunayi deti hai. PM ki zimedaari hai ki inki baat sunein. 

The protest by farmers from Tamil Nadu at the Jantar Mantar entered its 18th day today. Protestors said that they will only end the protests once their demands are accepted by the government.

The protestors have done everything from displaying the skulls of fellow farmers who had committed suicide, to dressing up as corpses and holding live mice in their mouths, to get a drought relief package of Rs 40, 000 crore from the Centre and farm loan waiver.

Mumbai police arrested hacker Manish Bhangale for falsely alleging a telephonic conversation between Eknath Khadse and Dawood Ibrahim.
12:38   Gujarat govt gives life term for cow slaughter
JUST IN: Gujarat Assembly amends cow protection law - life term for slaughtering cow.

Gujarat already has a cow protection law in place, put into effect when Narendra Modi was the state chief minister.

The Gujarat government had imposed a complete ban on cow-slaughter, transportation and selling of cow-beef by amending the erstwhile Gujarat Animal Preservation Act of 1954, in 2011. Since then, the crimes related to cow slaughter in Gujarat are covered under the Gujarat Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act of 2011.

Under this Act, the people found involved in cow-slaughtering and related crimes are penalised with Rs. 50,000 fine and a jail term up to seven years
12:30   From April 1, interest rate on PPF, small savings will be lowered by 0.1%
The Centre today lowered interest rates by 0.1 per cent on Public Provident Fund and small savings deposits. The new rate would be effective from April 1.

Meanwhile, For the January-March quarter even as banks have started lowering their deposit rates, government has kept interest rates on small savings schemes like PPF and Kisan Vikas Patra unchanged.

Since April last year, interest rates of all small saving schemes have been recalibrated on a quarterly basis. For the January-March quarter, these have been kept unchanged compared with the October-December quarter.

A finance ministry notification said investments in public provident fund (PPF) scheme will continue to fetch an annual interest rate of 8 per cent, the same as 5-year National Savings Certificate.
12:13   Restore my work or I won't appear before you: Defiant Justice Karnan tells SC
Calcutta High Court's Justice CS Karnan, who gained notoriety for being the first judge to be issued a warrant by the Supreme Court has appeared in court today.

His refusal to turn up before the Supreme Court to face contempt proceedings led the top court to issue a bailable warrant against him.

The 61-year-old controversial judge had skipped previous hearings in the contempt case initiated against him by the Supreme Court.

Justice Karnan who is arguing his own case before the bench headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar,  told the seven-judge bench to restore his administrative and judicial work taken away from him at the top court's orders."Restore my work or next time, I will not appear before your court," the judge said, adding the court was free to "send me to jail... I am not a terrorist or anti-social person".

CJI Kehar also asks Karnan if he wants to give medical certificates on his mental condition. Karnan declines saying he wants his work restored.

The Supreme Court had initiated the contempt proceedings after the controversial judge sought a probe against 20 "corrupt judges" to curb "high corruption" in the judiciary.

On Friday, the bench gave the judge an opportunity to withdraw his complaint."Do you stand by your complaint against the 20 judges?  Or do you wish to withdraw your complaint and unconditionally apologise," the bench asked him. He refused the offer, insisting that the complaint that he had given was very much under the law".

Justice Karnan told the court, "I am not fighting for my personal gain, I am fighting for general welfare and against the corruption in the Madras High court."

Justice C S Karnan appeared before a bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar, Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur, Pinaki Chandra Ghose, Kurian Joseph JJ.

The court has given Karnan four weeks to clarify his position.
11:57   Malaysia PM's 'ultimate priority' during India visit: Meeting Rajini
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak finally got his wish -- meeting superstar Rajnikanth in Chennai.

The Malaysian prime minister is visiting Chennai on a two-day trip and had requested a meet with the superstar.

Reports said the 'ultimate priority' of the Malaysian Prime Minister and his wife Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor during their India visit was to meet the Tamil superstar. Both, the Malaysian PM and his wife are big Bollywood and Tamil movie-buffs and they are die-hard fans of Rajinikanth.

In fact, the Malaysian authorities had put in a request for meeting the actor in Chennai, reported The Telegraph. The Malaysian PM began his India tour by first visiting Chennai on Thursday. He is scheduled to stay in Chennai for two days, after which the Malaysian PM and his entourage will visit Delhi.

Reports say that Razak and his wife became fans of Rajinikanth after the actor shot his blockbuster Kabali in Malaysia. During his Chennai stay, Razak is set to meet Malaysian community staying in India.

Speaking to the media, Rajinikanth said, "I was shooting a movie in Malaysia sometime ago. I could not meet him then, so I met him now."

Razak's visit comes ahead of general elections in Malaysia, where the Tamil diaspora has a considerable presence and Rajinikanth a large audience.

Razak will also travel to Hyderabad and Delhi.

Image: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak met Rajinikanth at his home in Chennai.
11:18   2 Indians abducted in South Sudan released: Swaraj
Two Indian petroleum engineers who were abducted in South Sudan have been released, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said today.

"I am happy to inform about the release of two Indian nationals Midhun and Edward who were abducted in South Sudan. They have reached the Indian embassy in Khartoum.

"I appreciate the efforts of Indian Ambassador in South Sudan Srikumar Menon for the release of Indian nationals," she said in a series of tweets.

Indians Midhun Ganesh and Edward Ambrose along with a Pakistani, Ayaz Hussein Jamali, were abducted by rebels from near their workplaces earlier this month in oil-rich Upper Nile state. Jamali has also been reportedly released.

"Following requests from Indian and Pakistani governments, the Sudanese and Ethiopian governments coordinated together to secure the release of the three oil workers," Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service said in a statement. However, it did not specify when the hostages were released.

Image: The two Indians who were abducted in South Sudan.
11:15   Congress defends absent MPs
Coming out in support of nominated MPs who remain absent from Parliament, the Congress Party on Friday said it should be considered if they cannot come to the Houses and give reason for their absence, adding that questions should not be raised on the President's appointment of the nominated members.

"Sachin Tendulkar is known as the God of cricket. He has commitments on many areas. If he cannot come and gives reason for that I think we should consider that. They can give their contribution and suggestions by coming to the Parliament," Congress leader Pramod Tiwari.

Tiwari further said that if should be left on the MPS as to how much they are interested in coming to the Parliament.

"Questions should not be raised on this. If the President has appointed them then questions should not be raised on his judgement," he added.

Meanwhile, backing Naresh Agarwal's assertion that nominated MPS like Sachin Tendulkar and Rekha must come to the Parliament, JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav said they have given huge contribution, adding that there is no doubt that the issue raised by the Samajwadi Party leader is serious.

Agarwal yesterday questioned the continued absence of sportspersons and Bollywood stars, nominated to Rajya Sabha, from the House even as he cited the case of Sachin Tendulkar for not being present during the session.
11:09   Muslim body in Lucknow puts out banners supporting construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya
With the Supreme Court all set to pronounce its verdict on the Ram Temple-Babri Masjid issue today, a Muslim organization in Lucknow has issued banners supporting construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

The apex court had earlier this month said the Ayodhya dispute is a sensitive and sentimental issue, adding that the matter should be settled amicably.

The apex court while hearing the pla of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy's seeking urgent hearing into the matter hadasked all parties concerned to sit together so as to arrive at a consensus.

The apex court had asked Swamy to consult the parties and inform it about the decision on March 31.

The apex court also suggested that a principal mediator can be chosen by it if required for settling the issue.

During the hearing, Chief Justice of India (CJI) J.S. Khehar offered to serve as a mediator if negotiations break down.

However, asserting that the Muslim front in the Ram Mandir matter will have to choose a different spot to build a mosque, Swamy said that if nobody would compromise on the matter then the BJP will pass a legislation.

"We are not opposing the idea of building a Masjid but not on the same spot, as it was the same spot where Lord Ram was born. But if they want to argue in the court that is also fine. We otherwise have other options, the BJP by next year will have majority in Rajya Sabha and then we can pass a legislation. And then the Muslim community will not have any Masjid to show for it," Swamy said.
10:29   Rahul may meet protesting TN farmers at Jantar Mantar today
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi may meet protesting farmers from Tamil Nadu at Jantar Mantar at 11.30 am today. At least 170 farmers from Tamil Nadu, carrying skulls of those who have committed suicide, have been staging a protest in the national capital demanding that the Centre announce a drought relief package and loan waiver for them.

This is what they want. 
10:16   Chak De star Chitrashi Rawat's brother dies in freak accident, Sushma promises help
In a heartbreaking incident, actress and former hockey player, Chitrashi Rawat's brother, has died in a freak accident aboard a cargo ship.

The actress tweeted a link of a website to External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, saying, "He is my baby brother. Please help" followed by an emoticon of folded hands.

The link which leads to Trade Winds, a global shipping news service, reported that  a 19-year-old crewman has died in a fall on an MSC boxship in Belgium.

The incident occurred on the 6,400-teu MSC Damla at a terminal in Antwerp on 29 March.

The website said, that the victim was walking down narrow metal stairs into a cargo hold to investigate an oil and water alarm, when he "almost certainly slipped, hit his head and then fell". The drop was 16 metres.

It says that a thunderstorm may have made the area slippery. The seafarer had only joined the crew a few days previously.

Sushma Swaraj responded, "Yes we will help you. Plz tell me what help do you want."
Rawat said she needed hlep in bringing his body back home soon. "Thankyou for responding mam. I need help in bringing his body back home soon.They said it'll take 12 days.My family needs closure."

Image: A 2009 file picture of Chitrashi Rawat
10:00   Why Trinamool broke Opposition unity in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s emphatic electoral victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand has weakened the resolve of some of the opposition parties to take on the government.

The starkest of the turnarounds has been that of the Trinamool Congress. The Trinamool Members of Parliament, who during the winter session were all fire and brimstone against Narendra Modi government's demonetisation decision, have turned a new leaf.

The aggression against the government has been replaced by a "issue based' approach and an effort to convey to the government that Trinamool was no longer with the Congress and Left parties in opposing the government.

It is also trying to convey to the Congress party that the latter cannot expect support in Parliament if it continues with its alliance with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in West Bengal.

The Congress and the Left parties had seat adjustment for the 2016 assembly polls in Bengal. Several of Trinamool leaders, including its Members of Parliament, are being investigated for their alleged roles in a financial scam and a sting operation on another party MP has put Mamata Banerjee-led Bengal government under pressure.

Recently, the Congress joined the Left parties in a joint protest against Trinamool in Kolkata. The evidence of Trinamool's altered approach came on Wednesday in the Rajya Sabha. Trinamool Congress members broke ranks with rest of the opposition to stage a strategic walkout in the Upper House just before other opposition parties prepared to vote on the Finance Bill.

The opposition scored a symbolic victory as it voted to have Rajya Sabha adopt five amendments to the Finance Bill. But Trinamool's action was seen as an attempt to help the government. The Trinamool had moved amendments to the Finance Bill similar to those moved by Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders, but didn't vote.

"The Congress cannot expect us to be with it in Parliament, while it joins hands with the CPI (M) against our government in West Bengal,' a Trinamool leader said. The Trinamool hopes it can drive a wedge between the Congress and CPI (M) in Bengal, where it is facing heat on corruption scandals. CPI (M) chief Sitaram Yechury today criticised the Trinamool approach. He chided the party for providing back door support to the Modi government by walking out of the Rajya Sabha, and said Trinamool by adopting this approach was reducing its bargaining power with the government.

-- Archis Mohan/Business Standard

File pic of TMC MPs with President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

09:46   Pakistans political economy is changing and India must take note
Pakistan, according to experts, can now be classified as a stable economy in view of its comparatively strong macroeconomic indicators.The country's economic performance, along with China's investment into the CPEC initiative, has encouraged investors to look at the country in a new light.

Such is the dominance of geopolitical narratives in South Asia that any positive news from the neighbourhood does not reach us. While thinking about our neighbours, especially Pakistan, images of a country whose economy is in shambles and polity unstable strike us. Read more
09:39   Over 30 Naxals attack railway station in Odisha, flee with walkie-talkies
Just in: Naxals attack Doikallu railway station in Odisha, triggering blast. No injuries or casualties reported, but two walkie-talkies have been stolen.

Early reports say that over 30 Naxals attacked the station in Odishas Rayagada district protesting Prime Minister Narendra Modis visit to the state on April 15. The ultras carried out two explosions and left posters against the PM Modis upcoming visit, says the Indian Express.

The BJP will hold its two-day national executive meeting in Bhubaneswar which will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party president Amit Shah, senior leader LK Advani and others.

Image: A poster protesting the PM's visit to Odisha left behind by the Naxals at the railway station.
09:29   Curry smell makes UK landlord ban 'coloureds'
A British landlord has instructed staff not to let his property to "coloured" people because of the curry smell they leave behind, and could face prosecution under Britain's Race Relations Act. Read more
09:19   Trump predicts 'very difficult' summit with Xi
President Donald Trump has said that next week's high-profile summit with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will be a "very difficult" one as the US can no longer afford massive trade deficits and job losses. Given that the United States has a massive trade deficit with China, American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives, Trump tweeted. Trump is scheduled to meet Xi at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida on April 6 and 7. This would be the first summit meeting between the two leaders.
09:18   'Aadhar is a national security threat'
"The government that is talking all the time about national security and national interests should be concerned. When national interests are jeopardised by their own project, they should pause and listen.Whether it is the BJP or the Congress, they all want control over the people. They don't give a damn if anything happens to the people of the country; they are only interested in what they can get out of the data."

Dr Usha Ramanathan,
an independent legal researcher, has been writing, campaigning and debating the social, legal and economic aspects of the Aadhar card project from 2009 onwards.

Dr Ramanathan, tells's Shobha Warrier why Aadhar is not going to help India or its people in any way, rather how it is a security threat. Read the full interview here.
09:04   Centre plans Model Food Policy
Business Standard reports:

The Ministry of Food Processing Industries has come out with a Model Food Policy which it has uploaded on its website for comments.

It hopes that states will adopt a final policy before the World Food Fair.

For the next round of 50-odd cold storages, approval for which has been sought by various companies, Harsimrat Kaur Badal said that she would do a proper satellite mapping of food and vegetable clusters before inviting expression of interests.
08:54   IS propaganda team that oversaw recruitment killed in air strike
The United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State has said that it had killed a propaganda chief and associates in an air strike in the western Iraqi town of Al Qaim.

Ibrahim Al Ansari was an 'important ISIS leader', a spokesman for the Baghdad-based coalition, said on Thursday.

The slain propaganda chief was a leader in efforts to recruit foreign fighters and encourage 'terror attacks' in Western countries, the spokesperson said.

The air strike, that took place on March 25, also killed four other IS jihadists, destroyed a multimedia operation team, said another Defence Department official.

Their propaganda efforts included 'brainwashing of young children to perpetuate ISIS brutal methods', the source said. -- Agencies
08:39   Now, tweet in more than 140 characters
Twitter has begun rolling out changes to let people pack more into tweets, subtracting from the character count names of those being replied to in posts.

The latest software modification at the one-to-many messaging service comes about a year after Twitter set out to relax a 140-character limit set due to mobile phone text messaging constraints in place when Twitter launched in 2006.

'Remember how we told you we were working on ways to let you to express more with 140 characters?' Twitter product manager Sasank Reddy said on Thursday in an online post.

'Now, when you reply to someone or a group, those @usernames wont count toward your tweets 140 characters,' he said.

'Our work isn't finished. We'll continue to think about how we can improve conversations and make Twitter easier to use,' Reddy said. -- Agencies
08:34   2 Indians detained in Pak during census for not having 'valid documents'
Pakistani authorities on Thursday detained two Indians during census exercise in Karachi, claiming that they were 'illegally' living in the country.

Both the persons did not have any legal documents, provincial census commissioner of Sindh Abdul Aleem Memon said while addressing reporters after winding up the first phase of census in eight districts of Sindh province.

The authorities, during census exercise, detained the two Indian nationals, claiming that they were living in Karachi 'illegally', the Express Tribune reported.

"One has been arrested from Gulberg Town, Karachi and we have recovered a diary from his possession," he said.

They have been handed over to law enforcement agencies for further investigation, the official said.

Pakistan on March 15 began its first census in about two decades with the assistance of over 2,00,000 troops and civilian officials collect crucial data that will be used for key policy decisions, including delimitation of constituencies. -- PTI
08:21   Former South Korean Prez Park Geun-hye arrested for graft
South Korea's former president Park Geun-hye was arrested on Thursday night over charges of corruption and abuse of power that brought her down.

A convoy of vehicles, including a black sedan carrying Park, entered a detention facility near Seoul after the Seoul Central District Court granted prosecutors request to arrest her.

The Seoul Central District Court issued a warrant to arrest Park on charges of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion, and leaking government secrets, after a marathon court hearing the previous day.

It is justifiable and necessary to arrest (Park) as key charges were justified and there is risk of evidence being destroyed, the court said in a statement.

The former president was grilled for nearly nine hours in court on Thursday as a judge deliberated whether she should be arrested.

Prosecutors can detain her for up to 20 days before formally charging her. She will likely be in jail while her case is heard.

The former president was stripped of her immunity when she was dismissed from office by the countrys top court earlier this month. Park, 65, has denied the accusations against her.

Park becomes the third former leader to be arrested over corruption in Asias fourth-largest economy, where politics and big business have long been closely tied. -- Agencies
00:24   Jordan's King Abdullah to visit White House on April 5
Jordan's King Abdullah will visit the White House next week for his second meeting with Donald Trump since the US president took office, a US official said.

Abdullah's visit comes amid burgeoning diplomatic efforts to get the Palestinian-Israeli peace process back on track.

Trump and Abdullah briefly met at a prayer breakfast in Washington last month. 
00:13   Despite big botch, PwC to continue work for Oscars -- but without cells
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 54-person board of governors has decided to continue working with PwC in spite of the Best Picture snafu at the 2017 ceremony.

PwC has overseen the awards since 1934 and more recently started handling The Academys taxes and board voting, with chairman Tim Ryans apology for the human error apparently proving sufficient.

"Heading into our 84th year working with PwC, a partnership that is important to the Academy, we've been unsparing in our assessment that the mistake made by representatives of the firm was unacceptable, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in an email to members, adding that after a review it would keep on the accounting firm but with caveats.

There will be rehearsals, new envelope handlers, a third balloting leader privy to the results who will sit in the control room at the Oscars and quickly flag any mistakes, and all envelope handlers will be forced to hand in their smartphones before the show.